“No argument” from Russian Transport Minister over crash findings

Russia’s Transport Minister is “surprised by alleged remarks that the air-traffic controllers should have forbidden the plane from landing.”

Igor Levitin was responding to the mixed reaction caused in Poland by the final report on the crash of President Lech Kaczynski’s aircraft.

The report by the Interstate Aviation Committee, which essentially put the blame for the accident on the Polish pilots, was handed over to Poland on Wednesday. On the same day, it was dubbed by the late president’s brother, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, “an insult to Poland.”

Igor Levitin was also perplexed by the statements of the Polish side that the IAC provided no proof of psychological pressure on the crew from the plane’s VIP passengers.

“I am not going to argue. Again, everybody heard the deciphered recordings yesterday,” the minister said on Thursday. 

­Also read Evgeny Minchenko's column on the issue

­Read the transcript of Igor Levitin’s comments to the media below

"I have carefully read the Inter-State Aviation Committee’s report and analyzed the initial reaction to it by Polish officials. 


Iunderstand the complex feelings of my Polish colleagues. It’s hard toread and see the details of this air crash. The memories of it arestill fresh, as I was at the crash site. 


Nevertheless,we, all together, should and must present the truth to the public. I amglad that the Polish side has welcomed the publication of the report ofthe Inter-State Aviation Committee, which is an independentinternational organization that has carried out the technicalinvestigation into the air crash with consent from the Russian andPolish sides and in compliance with the Chicago Convention (ICAO). 


Isee that our Polish colleagues still have questions. I don’t want to bedrawn into polemics because a criminal investigation is underway andits course will help clarify any remaining questions. 


However,I am slightly surprised by alleged remarks that the air controllersshould have forbidden the plane to land. It has been said and provenmany times that under the existing regulations it’s up to the captainof a special international flight to take an independent decision ontake-off and landing. You know, the air traffic controller simplydidn’t have the right to ban the landing. By the way, I’ve seen thatthe Polish government’s Authorized representative gave journalists aphrase taken from a conversation in the air traffic control centre.I’ve also heard the recording of those exchanges and can also quote akey phrase related to the plane’s landing: “This is a decision of theinternational [flight] number one.” 


Incidentally,our colleagues said they intended to publish some dialogue of the airtraffic controllers. Recordings of that radio conversation wereofficially handed over to the Polish part immediately after thedisaster. We have no secrets from our Polish counterparts here. At thesame time, those materials are certainly going to be taken into accountin the course of the criminal investigation currently carried out bythe Investigation Committee in cooperation with Polish authorities. Asfar as I understand, this is the reason why those materials still havenot been made public by Technical Commission of the Inter-StateAviation Committee. Besides, we should not forget that the onlyvaluable information is the one which the crew received from the airtraffic controllers. And, yesterday, everybody heard that informationin full.  


I am somewhat perplexed by the suggestionthat there was no evidence of the high-ranking passengers havingexerted pressure on the crew and that the pilots didn’t want to land. Iam not going to argue. Again, everybody heard the deciphered recordingsyesterday. 


I would also like to note that theRussian and Polish experts had given a joint assessment of the actionsof the commander-in-chief of the Polish Air Force, and that assessmentwas unequivocal. As for forensic examination reports, the Polish sidehas them. 


You see, the problem is not in beingbrave enough to admit some facts. It’s much more important that anunbiased and objective investigation is carried out, and so nobodyshould be afraid of its findings. They are crucial for the safety offuture flights and for avoidance of disasters like that."